Hear the sound of an R&B groove bouncing with an Afro / Caribbean rhythm, body-rolling to a hip-hop flow floating over an electronic bed and you might find Benjamin Shaffer (aka Jāmin, pronounced jaymin) at the fader. The rare open format DJ who produces, writes, plays, engineers and sings, he has made a career making music without borders, working independently, and collaborating with artists across genres and cultures. Benjamin Shaffer’s songs bring artists and styles together from the U.S., U.K., Jamaica, Colombia, India, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka, and Mexico. His tracks simultaneously move the body and speak to both the shared human experience and issues plaguing our times, calling for light, leadership, community, unity and beauty. A strong current of personal responsibility flows while he creates sonic space to contemplate vulnerability, sacrifice, loss, and pain, and to honor human dynamics. The pulse is rooted in his perspective as a DJ – move the body. Engineered to his own eclectic beat, it’s a debut years in the making, but inevitable in its coming.
Raised on a Pennsylvania farm where music mingled with activism and lessons of nature, Benjamin Shaffer made the connection between art and community from his youth. His father, an artist, drummed in Rock and Jazz bands. His sisters, vocal about environmental policy and criminal justice reform, sang and danced around the house. His mother, a passionate women’s rights volunteer leader for Planned Parenthood and other influential organizations, played piano and introduced him to the kalimba thumb piano, djembe drum, and other instruments from Burkina Faso, where she served in the Peace Corps. The turntables became his mode of expression.
At 12, what started with a tutorial by the DJ for the ‘90s band Luscious Jackson (Capitol Records/Grand Royal), grew into an obsession as he honed his skills deejaying local parties and making songs using three turntables to loop pieces of records. At 18, he released his first song “Fuck Giuliani,” a social justice record in response to then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s police-state approach to reducing crime. The track was co-produced by Johnny Temple, the bassist for Girls Against Boys (Geffen Records). Temple, who became a mentor, invited him on tour.
After more than a year crisscrossing the U.S. and Europe, Benjamin Shaffer went on to build his professional profile. He gained acceptance at NYU’s Steinhardt School—a first for a DJ who couldn’t read or write music. He opened Brooklyn music studio Ishlab so artists like A$AP Rocky, Mac Miller (RIP), Skrillex, Roberta Flack, Marc E. Bassy, French Montana, Jet, Jadakiss, 9th Wonder, and M.I.A. could record with a deep vibe while gentrification was making cost- effective studios obsolete. Through the studio, he offered licensing services, placing music on television shows for networks including CBS, Oxygen, and MTV. He also deejayed parties for celebs including Tom Cruise, Anna Wintour, and Daniel Craig, and kept well-heeled guests dancing at fêtes for Chanel and other brands.
In 2008, Benjamin Shaffer founded Project Rhythm, a non-profit that trains educators to help underserved youth to develop valuable life skills (collaboration, time management, empathy, trouble shooting, etc) through the production of their own original songs. Project Rhythm changes young lives, one beat at a time, The organization works with schools, community centers, juvenile detention centers, drug rehabilitation centers, summer camps and other community based organizations.Over 2,000 kids have benefited from the program in NYC, Los Angeles, Connecticut, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Peru. ProjectRhythm.org.
Benjamin Shaffer has spoken on panels at Harvard, NYU and the Global Nexus. He was a student mentor at the NY General Assembly technology school and startup incubator. He is an advisor for studentdream.org, a nonprofit that helps students of color build businesses. He holds a pending patent for music curation technology.
With his music, he aims to invite movement and spark movements, whether to make moments, make change, or make babies, each song reflects the ties that bind us all together.